Ernest had had several theory lessons with Ahab and was delighted that finally, they were to set sail. But he was crest fallen to learn there was one more lesson. How long would this last? But the lesson was short but important.
“Safety at sea, Ernest, is about planning, communication and common sense, but we do need to make sure we understand each other and follow some basic rules.” Said Ahab. Ernest nodded sagely in response.
“Right. Here are the rules for safety at sea whilst aboard this fine vessel Ernest. Firstly, you always wear a life jacket. Slips and trips happen and when an unexpected wave hits the points, it doesn’t take much to topple over the side. We’ll talk about the ‘man overboard’ procedure another time but if you do topple in, it will take me a while to turn around and get back to you. Your life jacket will be the thing that keeps you alive when you get tired from all that bobbing around”
“Always wear my life jacket” echoed Ernest.
“Secondly, when walking about, take your time and take care. Keep ropes and halyards nicely coiled and neat at all times. A rope around the foot can spell disaster.”
“Walk slow and carefully. Keep ropes tidy,” nodded Ernest.
“Thirdly, communication between you and me is important too Ernest. For the first few times we go out, I may say things to you that you may not understand and that’s Ok. But, and this is the big but, if you don’t understand something I say or are unsure of anything, ASK.”
“Ask if I don’t get it,” said Ernest.
“Fourthly, we need a plan and if you don’t understand that, you need to ask.”
“Yes,” said Ernest, wondering if they were ever going to leave. The tide was rushing in now, swirling around the boat and he could feel her lifting.
“Fifthly – is there such a word? – we need to double-check tide times and the weather. We need to be prepared for sudden changes in weather and wind especially and have an action plan between us of how we are going to deal with it. And finally, I’ll show you how to make an emergency call on the radio and how the DSC button on the radio sends out important information. But should something happen, use your magic mobile for now, as we won’t be far from the coast.”
“Are we going now?” asked Ernest, almost breathless with excitement.
Ahab looked out to sea. There were no white horses on the wave, the wind was gentle as the forecast had promised. He could smell the salt in the air and he felt the anticipation that only a day on the water, under sail could bring.
He looked at Ernest, his star pupil and realised that he too was just as excited but, he imagined a little apprehensive too.